Asking for Testimonials is Just Like Applying to College

My first job was a college admissions advisor. I spent four months out of the year on the road recruiting students. Then four months cooped up in my studio apartment reading 75 applications a day. The remainder of the year was a mix between trying to get accepted students to say yes and prepping for a new cycle of applicants.

You can imagine that applications started to blend together pretty quickly.

One required piece of the application that I reviewed was the recommendation letters. In all honesty, these letters didn’t weight heavily in the decision process.

But a good one could mean the difference between a rejection and landing in the “maybe” pile.

Most were generic.

Stephanie’s counselor had known her for four years and she was a driven student, highly engaged in student life.

Malcom was a committed student, always someone a teacher or administrator could count on.

And then—maybe once in every 20 applications—I’d see a recommendation letter that was personalized, telling an actual story that showed off the student’s character, work ethic, and interest in my university. Those were the ones that got me to slow down and consider them a bit more closely.

how to get better testimonials


Seven years into entrepreneurship and I’ve seen unbelievable parallels between letters of recommendation and client testimonials. You’re required to have them but they only make a difference when they tell a story.

Unfortunately, most testimonials don’t say much.

They exist solely to prove that the business owner isn’t brand new and has worked with, at least, a handful of clients.

As a reader—of college applications or website content—you expect recommendations to be positive. I mean, honestly, why ask someone to write one who doesn’t have nice things to say about you?


If you’re asking a past client to write a testimonial for you, you’re already confident they’re satisfied with your work. But unless you define what you want them to reflect on, what they send back will probably be too broad to make an impact.

When used strategically, testimonials support your marketing goals instead of just adding to the noise. They speak to the questions that prospective customers have about whether you’re the right fit for them. They create empathy for individuals who aren’t sure whether their investment will pay off. And they show specific ways that their life or business could change if they decide to work with you.

These are things that help prospective customers trust that you can help them change their situation.


After getting so many questions about how to ask for a testimonial, questions that produce amazing feedback, and where to share them, I created a guide.

You can download (for free!) that guide—Go Beyond Generic Testimonials—and I won’t even ask for your email address in exchange.

If you are, however, interested in more free tips like this, you can sign up for my emails at the bottom of this page.

After reading through, let me know:

How have testimonials helped in your business? Do they make a difference when you’re deciding between two brands or do they just give you the extra boost of confidence you need to invest?

Good luck!

Kim WenselComment